At the end of October I was lucky enough to be invited to Taiwan to attend their International Deaf Film Festival and to be honest, whilst I felt incredibly honoured…I was also super nervous.
You see, not only would I be flying thousands of miles to a place I’d never been to meet a bunch of strangers, I’d also have to give a couple of talks about film-making…in front of people…lots of people.
Being a natural socially awkward person this was in itself all quite daunting…but on top of that I started to worry about a little something I like to call “the deaf stuff”.
This is what my initial thought process looked like:
So after some frantic Googling and accepting that I probably couldn’t learn Chinese or Taiwan Sign Language before the plane landed, I spent the entire flight there in a weird panic stricken daze and just hoped that everything would be OK.
And guess what?
It was OK.
In fact, it was more than OK, it was brilliant!
I have never felt more welcome or accepted as a deaf person, than I did at the Taiwan International Deaf Film Festival. Those guys are literally, THE BEST.
It had nothing to do with language in the end. My public speaking was still fraught with stammers, pauses and mass confusion. (To be fair, we were translating from spoken English, to Chinese, to Taiwan Sign language, with a bit of BSL thrown in for luck and then back again.)
But it didn’t matter if things went wrong or if they weren’t perfect because there was an overwhelming sense of positivity and appreciation. People didn’t get angry if someone made a mistake or if someone’s views were different. No dirty looks because I was speaking and signing at the same time.
I’ve found that in the UK a lot of deaf people can be confrontational if they don’t understand something, or don’t agree with something. There seems to be a strong “my way, or the highway” attitude, which is probably where my original anxieties manifested, but that attitude just didn’t exist in Taiwan. There was just a huge amount of respect for each other.
The Taiwan International Deaf Film Festival has got to be, by far, the best deaf film festival I have ever attended. The films are top quality, the range of emerging to established film-makers is refreshing, the talks are educational and eye opening (…maybe not my one…*gulp*) and most importantly, they really go out of their way to make sure ALL people feel like they belong.
Whether you’re deaf, hard of hearing, a sign language user, a speaker, Korean, Japanese or even that weird English person who can’t seem to look good in any of the photos.
It’s kind of bizarre that I’ve felt more included at a deaf film festival in a foreign country than I’ve ever felt in the UK but if the organisers can find a way to provide a range of interpreters, lip speakers, captions (Chinese and English), then there’s no reason that we can’t do the same here. Let’s follow suit and try to make everyone feel more welcome, whatever the occasion.
Deafness should be inclusive, not exclusive.
I’ll leave you with this quick travel video, that gives some brief insight in to my time as a deaf person in Taiwan..and before the BSL police say anything, yes, I am fully aware that my signing is questionable…VERY questionable. Enjoy.
Read more of Teresa’s posts (with cartoons!) by clicking here.
Teresa is a freelance film maker, photographer and full time cynic. At school, she was voted “Most likely to end up in a lunatic asylum”, a fate which has thus far been avoided. Her pet hates are telephones, intercoms and all living things.
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